Fusion: Three Mile Island is Netflix’s new documentary series about the worst commercial nuclear accident on American soil. Known as the Three Mile Island Accident, on March 28, 1979, there was a partial meltdown of the Unit 2 (TMI-2) reactor at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Station in Pennsylvania.
The accident was caused by a series of mechanical failures, which were exacerbated by the inability of plant operators to recognize the seriousness of the situation, a loss of coolant accident (LOCA), resulting in a release of radioactivity. .
Fusion: Three Mile Island takes an in-depth look at the events, controversies, and lasting effects of the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania. Is Three Mile Island still radioactive and working today?
news week has everything you need to know.
Is Three Mile Island still radioactive?
Yes, technically, Three Mile Island is still radioactive today, but its radiation levels are not thought to be dangerous to humans or nature, according to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Although, as seen in Fusion: Three Mile Islandthis has been disputed by local civilians and former employees who worked at the plant who speak of adverse health effects caused by the accident to this day.
Fortunately, there were no deaths or injuries at the time of the incident.
Aaron Datesman, a former Department of Energy scientist and NASA engineer, said news week when asked if Three Mile Island is still radioactive from the 1979 accident today, “Mostly no, but also a little yes.”
If it’s overall radioactive today, Datesman said: “Very much. TMI-1 operated until 2019 (it was Unit 2 that melted down), so there’s a large inventory of radioactive material contained in a spent fuel pool at that site.” .”
He explained: “As for the spent fuel pool, the fuel in a nuclear reactor is not like gasoline in a car, it is not used until the tank is empty. The fuel rods are used to generate electricity for a period of months and then replaced.
“However, spent fuel rods are intensely radioactive: a human being near a hot, unshielded fuel rod would receive a lethal dose of radiation within minutes,” Datesman continued. “Spent fuel rods need to be stored in a pool of water for a long time while the radioactivity slowly decays, over a period of years or decades.”
Datesman confirmed that spent fuel from TMI-1 is “stored in a spent fuel pool” at Three Mile Island today.
Mitchell Rogovin of the NRC Special Investigation Group in his January 1980 report “Three Mile Island: A Report to Commissioners and to the Public. Volume I” explained during the accident that 2.5 million curies of gases were released radioactive nobles and 15 curies of radioactive iodine. .
Rogovin said the release of noble gases and radioactive iodine resulted in an average dose of 1.4 mrem to two people living in the site area, which is less than 1 percent of the annual dose from “natural background radiation and medical practice”.
as seen in Fusion: Three Mile Island on Netflix, the plant’s parent company, Metropolitan Edison, like the USSR at Chernobyl nine years later, tried to downplay the severity of the accident at first. Metropolitan Edison also claimed that no radiation had been detected or released from the site, but that was not the whole truth.
Despite its radioactive nature, the NRC declared in 2018 after numerous investigations in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now Health and Human Services), the Department of Energy, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and several other independent studies. that “in the months after the accident, although doubts were raised about the possible adverse effects of radiation on human, animal and plant life in the TMI area, none could be directly related to the accident”.
The report continued: “Thousands of environmental samples of air, water, milk, vegetation, soil, and food were collected by various government agencies monitoring the area. Very low levels of radionuclides could be attributed to emissions from the accident. Thorough investigations and assessments by several highly respected organizations, including Columbia University and the University of Pittsburgh, have concluded that despite the serious damage to the reactor, the actual release had negligible effects on the physical health of people or the environment.”
In 2009, TMI-1 at Three Mile Island experienced a small radioactive leak while workers were cutting pipes. At the time, 20 employees were treated for mild radiation exposure, but no radiation was believed to have escaped and therefore did not pose a risk to the public, CNN reported.
At the time, TMI-1 owner Exelon Corporation said in a statement: “A monitor at the temporary opening cut into the containment building wall to allow new steam generators to move inside showed a slight increase in a reading and then back to normal.
Is Three Mile Island still in business today?
No, Three Mile Island is still not operating today.
The TMI-2 reactor was permanently shut down after the accident, the reactor coolant system was drained, radioactive water was decontaminated and evaporated, and the radioactive waste was removed to an “appropriate disposal area,” according to the NRC. All remaining fuel and debris from the reactor was shipped to the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory. Today, 99 percent of the fuel has been removed from TMI-2.
The official cleanup of Three Mile Island was completed in December 1993, 14 years after the accident, at a cost of $1 billion.
TMI-1, which was not involved in the 1979 accident, remained in operation until September 20, 2019. Although TMI-1 had its license temporarily suspended following the accident, it resumed operations in 1985.
The reopening of TMI-1 was controversial as the citizens of the three surrounding counties voted overwhelmingly to stop TMI-1’s operation in 1982. However, they were overturned in 1985 after a 4-1 vote by the Commission. Nuclear regulator. washington post reported at the time.
Although in 2009 the NRC granted a license extension to allow TMI-1 to continue operating until 2034, Exelon announced that Three Mile Island would close in 2019 as a result of the growth of cheap natural gas and renewable energy.
As of today, the Three Mile Island decommissioning process is still ongoing and, according to the NRC, will be completed in 2079. At the moment, the spent fuel is being moved to dry storage, which is expected to be completed in the summer. of 2022.
Fusion: Three Mile Island is streaming now on Netflix now.